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10 Minutes With … Hilco Sweets10 Minutes With … Hilco Sweets

License Global sits down with Lou DiMarco, executive vice president, Hilco Sweets, to look at the state of play in American food and beverage manufacturing and to discuss current and future trends.

Ian Hart

November 4, 2022

3 Min Read
Lou DiMarco
Lou DiMarcoHilco Sweets

Hilco Sweets provides fun and unique toys that are affordable to every level of income. Since 1987, it began combining toys with candy, pivoting the business to focus on novelty candy. In 2014, it was acquired by CandyRific, allowing growth and improvement in novelty candy products, as well as an expansion of licensing rights. 

How would you describe the modern manufacturing and licensing process in U.S. in relation to food and beverage, within confectionary and associated products? 

Lou: From a manufacturing standpoint, we always ask, ‘Is this brand slapping?’ before we manufacture a product. For example, a licensed character on a potato chip bag. Will a child appreciate the fact that the chip has no relevance to the brand when the bag is actually opened? Is this type of licensing proper for the end user? We always try to place the consumer first in assuring that final product delivers on licensed equity. 

What are the main challenges that you face as a business? 

Determining the true evergreen licenses vs. the trends and fads. Everyone has the ‘next best thing’, but few truly live in the evergreen status that is so critical to the investment needed on the innovation side. 

What are the main opportunities within licensing in the confectionary market? 

Related:Hilco Partners with Kraft Heinz on New Candy Line

Addressing functional while maintaining true brand equity and delivering on fun. 

How do you approach the licensing process, and what elements make a marketable licensed product? 

We look for evergreen opportunities with consistent and resilient growth for three-plus years. You need consistency vs. the multiple one-off offerings. It was difficult with the COVID lockdowns and the explosion of the ‘me-star’ generation, where a child, a teen, parents can be a larger social media star than a Hollywood generated character. We all know that social media has truly put the power of popularity into the hands of the common person. 

You touched on COVID there, how were you impacted by the pandemic? 

Because of our focus on brands during COVID, vs. entertainment properties, we were not impacted in a negative manner during the lockdowns. However, it did change the face of the consumer, exposure to new and how consumers digested the opportunity for new. 

What do you see for the future of the licensee industry, and has the pandemic brought about any noticeable trends in the food & beverage market?   

I think licensing will now, and in the future, compete with the stability of branding, private branding and less volatile segments that rely more on flavor profiles vs. characters, or an emotional event tied to entertainment. In essence it’s a market correction much like we see in real-estate or the stock market. Pre-COVID we were over-saturated with too many releases and the target market could not even respond to the sales of products released because newer was being released too fast. 

Hilco Sweets is owned by CandyRific, which was named in License Global’s 2022 Leading Licensees Report. The report recognizes more than 200 manufacturers worldwide across all categories that have made significant developments in the licensing business and will continue to push the industry forward in 2023.

Contained within the report is an exclusive interview with Clark Taylor, senior vice president, sales and marketing, CandyRific.

Click here to download your copy of the 2022 Leading Licensees Report.

About the Author(s)

Ian Hart

Senior Digital Editor U.K. & EMEA, License Global

Ian joined the License Global editorial team in May 2022 as digital editor for the U.K. and EMEA, becoming Senior Digital Editor in April 2023.

Ian is a huge fan of sports and entertainment brands and, as a father, toys and kids' brands are a large part of his life!

He has been at Informa (formerly UBM) since 2018, where he was previously the editor of SHP, a B2B digital publication aimed at health & safety professionals.

Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in B2B trade print media, in the automotive sector, working on various publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.

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